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How Online Learning Can Benefit the Disabled Student

Online learning wasn’t even uttered in the past, for in the past, when technology was just a budding innovation of lights and telephones, and wars and diseases riddled the streets, we were at a standstill.

No Internet? When? Why? How?

At a time when technology was yet in its infancy, the world was still trying to figure out how cars worked–uncomplicated as that may seem now. When Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were just teenagers trying to revolutionize the tech industry, the Internet was still an adventure waiting to happen.

It’s hard to think about how, for students at the time who weren’t as privileged as today’s educated individuals, researching and studying meant hitting the countless shelves of our local libraries, if only to find a page from an elusive book. Not exactly convenient nor expedient.

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When eventually technology caught up with the demands of student life, the Internet happened. The dawning of the Internet changed lives, as it allowed every individual to spend literally seconds–instead of countless of hours–to find what they were looking for.

While hitting the library was, and continues to be, a classic and proven method for researching, manually sorting through literally hundreds of books in a crowded library is anything but convenient–particularly for nearly 1 in 5 physically challenged persons in the United States. Or, as the staggering statistics say, about 56.7 million people or roughly 19% of the population who are physically challenged, many of them students.

Indeed, the Internet was more than just a welcome idea; it was the revolutionary technology that literally made everything–or NEARLY everything–possible virtually without having to move a muscle. Today, disabled students look to computer-based instruction as a golden opportunity to reaching their dreams.

Here, we list the best reasons why Online Learning is an excellent option for a college student who is limited by physical disability.

Online Learning Promotes Convenience

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Your own time, at your own place.

The long heated debate on the Internet’s bane points to the argument that the Internet discourages physical activities. As this relates only to irresponsible Internet use (or borderline Internet addiction), it is worth looking into the flip side of the coin: the Internet has pros that outweigh the cons.

As a primary medium for online learning, the Internet offers disabled students the convenience that comes with being educated. With computer-based learning, students who are physically challenged no longer have to travel long distances and burden themselves with the possible issues concerning it, such as being pressed for time and constantly dealing with stress. In fact, research shows 90% of disabled children do not even attend school. A lot of people already do not have the capacity or means to travel long distances, let alone our disabled students.

The inconvenience of commute is one of the main reasons why attending college of university is difficult for disabled students. Most of them may have someone living assisting them with their needs, such as their own family. However, for college-bound students that are living alone with their disability, basic tasks such as using the bathroom can be a minor inconvenience. Imagine them going to school day in and day out on long distance commute! With physical limitations, attending university for several years to earn a degree sounds like a lot of work.

Going to college also entails tuition and college costs for a disabled student, which they would have to save up for on top of other expenses relating to medication and care for their disability. Finding a job is a whole other discussion.

While many surmise that only distance and cost hinder disabled students from pursuing a degree, that’s not all there is to it. Disabled students should also be on the lookout for other factors such as the availability of facilities for their needs when choosing a higher education institution. They would need to find a college or university that accommodates them through ramps for mobile-impaired students, special handicap spaces, as well as trained personnel to attend to their needs.

With online learning, disabled students gain easy access to all educational materials right at the comfort of their home. This online learning set-up significantly removes the hassle of physical exhaustion for mobile-impaired students, while also making life easier for the visually-impaired or hearing-impaired ones. This allows them to explore the world in a much freer environment, removing the discouragement of learning and enticing them to participate more actively instead.

By the same token, distance education also translates to convenience to caretakers and families of disabled students. Like the students themselves, families and caretakers can say goodbye to the daily struggle, thanks to online learning.

Indeed, in online learning, convenience is the name of the game.

Online Learning Removes Discouragement

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It’s easy to be discouraged when physical limitations literally prevent you from doing what others are doing: earning a degree. Online learning reverses this thinking as it fosters the “I can!” attitude.

How, you ask? Here are ways that online learning removes discouragement from the minds of disabled students:

  1. Because online learning provides convenience, students feel a lot freer to participate more as opposed to being in a loud or noisy environment that affects concentration. Zero pressure from classmates and less competition also reduce fear of failure or judgment. Online learners also have easy access to the resources they need, which affects overall performance. It is also worth noting that online educators are constantly breaking barriers to encourage participation in online classrooms.
  2. There are virtually zero large crowds, which could be a source of discomfort for disabled students. As a result, students overcome shyness and become more motivated with the presence of their loved ones rallying behind and rooting for them at home.
  3. Having the option to “study at their own pace” is a major factor for the success of disabled college students. Having that freedom to plot their own schedule removes the unnecessary pressure that most students in brick-and-mortar universities battle with. In many college programs, disabled and regular students can take breaks anytime or study for as long as they want, while still being guided by the right principles to avoid mental or emotional fatigue.
  4. When it comes to online learning, it doesn’t really matter if students repeat their lessons when feel like they need to; they will not be holding back an entire class. When they are able to piece together what used to be a confusing lesson, they can proceed with the next without having to worry about being disconnected in the process. As a result, disabled students enhance their learning potential.

Online learning allows for a convenient and enriching educational journey for the resilient student dealing with a disability. Distance education removes discouragement and, consequently, wards off fear and hesitation.

Online Learning Promotes Resilience and Curiosity

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The Internet is not always a bad place.

We can practically search for any topic we can think of on the Internet, from cute videos of baby animals to theoretical researches conducted by renowned scientists, and everything else in between. This means that our hunger for knowledge can be quenched by the vast amounts of information that is readily available on the Internet. Who was it who said “curiosity can kill the cat but it can also help the cat to become a better hunter”?

With proper guidance, disabled students develop the right attitude toward distance education. It’s more than just going online to study; it’s about demonstrating resilience in research to create a solid foundation of verified and quality content–all of which is made possible with easy access to resources. After all, no student just simply comes up with a quality output; there are always lessons to be learned along the way that promote their well-being.

What results from all these is a cycle of quality output and bountiful rewards. It is an experience that not only fosters academic growth but also fulfills a vital need to develop a positively curious and resilient attitude toward the work they do.

Online Learning Offers Easily Accessible Learning Materials

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Online learning is flexible and adaptable.

For our visually-impaired or even blind students, the technology we have today can provide the braille keyboard. This innovative tool allows them to translate their actual thoughts onto the computer with ease. As a result, they are able to easily participate in producing written content,  a feat that used to be impossible in the past. With the text to audio technology, visually students also hear what is written and explore the endless resources online.

Meanwhile, our hearing-impaired or deaf students can also benefit from today’s technology with subtitles in educational videos. These allow them to understand what the speakers are saying without having to hear their actual voice.

Some students are not physically disabled; many of them suffer from learning disabilities. According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America, learning disabilities are neurological processing problems. These processing problems interfere with the natural learning skills of an individual, making it a challenge for them to retain or even understand concepts.

Students with learning disabilities typically have trouble understanding what they are studying; they usually need to read and analyze over and over again to get a good grasp of the lesson. Understandably, it is highly suggested that college students with learning disabilities take special, separate lessons that allow them to study on their own pace, instead of barely coping with the rest of the class.

Indeed, technology is tackling obstacles to learning. Today, the Internet houses almost all of the information that can be digested through different means beyond the conventional five senses. What used to be a dream for the visual or hearing impaired and those with learning problems is now a reality; they simply need to know how to find all the helpful resources and explore them. The materials are readily available and accessible online on your computer. And yes, the possibilities on how to study them are limitless and it goes for every topic you can imagine, 

And what about having to study alone at home? Don’t be discouraged, because studying at home doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to study alone. Discussions can also be made with other Internet users or learners. You can talk about or debate on certain topics, compare and share notes, and just ultimately learn from each other.

And while materials that are readily accessible online and discussions can be started off of them, you can almost guarantee that every information you find can be verified. There are a lot of applications that help you engage in conversations in the most fun and creative way–if you know where to look!

Conclusion

The world is still continuing to grow. And with each growth comes newfound technologies that were once unimaginable. With the help of the Internet, online learning has changed the flow and direction of learning for disabled students.

Let’s go back to how online learning is invaluable to a student with disability. With the help of today’s technology, our disabled distance learning students can:

  • access online academic resources from the comfort of their own home;
  • communicate with fellow online learners and instructors without burdening themselves with hours-long commute;
  • foster a sense of motivation as opposed to being discouraged because of their limitations;
  • develop a positive attitude toward learning because hesitation and fear are removed from the equation.

Sounds pretty neat, doesn’t it?

It’s also worth reiterating that any physical or learning disability should not limit you in your desire to pursue a degree and carve a career path for yourself. There is an abundance of resources and methods to access them, thanks to online learning. If you dream of finishing college and earning your degree without putting yourself and your loved ones at an inconvenience, don’t give up!

Learning for the disabled student was once a fickle dream, a goal that used to be synonymous with hardship. All that is in the past. Your dream of becoming an academic success (and a success in life!) is just a few clicks away!

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